Friday, January 21, 2011

When first you do not succeed......try and try again

Not just an old adage, but the phrase holds true in the art of baking. No one person can tell you that they made the perfect loaf on the first trial. However, with patience and experience, bread baking is not only a skill that is easy to master, it can even be an expertise that friends and family will be in awe with.

Bringing a freshly baked loaf to a potluck party or serving homemade dinner rolls at a family gathering, the point is freshly baked breads never fails to impress even the most difficult critics (think of that aunt in the family).

Consider bread baking as an art form, not only is the medium exciting. The best part is you can eat your creation after. How bad can that be? To think that people are still paying an arm and a leg for artisan bread or farmer's bread is simply outrageous. Why bother when you can buy a 5lb bag of bread flour for less than $3.50. Yes, you heard me, $3.50 for a 5lb bag of King Arthur's flour. And no, this is not a promotional piece for King Arthur brand. I just fall in love with the flour as it bakes better. After understanding the company's history of how its generous owner sold the business to its employees and it is now an employee-owned company, what is not to love about the brand. Good products and good hardworking owners.

Yes, the other giant manufacturers' brands can sell their products a lot cheaper than King Arthur's. We are talking quality, moral standard, upholding the belief of the everyday woman and man who go to work at the plant.

Back to the topic, if you must know, yours truly had baked over 20 loaves of bread, all short of achieving that perfection until one day, practice does make perfect! The rest as they say is history. My word of advice, practice and play with your ingredients. Why not? If you have read enough bread recipe through blogs and cookbooks, you will find they all share similar techniques.

Flour- The basic ingredients in baking. What brand and type you use depend on what you are doing. But do yourself a favor. If the recipe calls for bread flour, why substitute with all purpose. Does it matter? Yes, it does. Use the right flour to get that right texture. Bread is all about texture.

Yeast- Know thy yeast! Read the expiration date. Anytime you are not sure, test your yeast. Mix the yeast with the liquid ingredients called for in the recipe. Usually warm milk mix with sugar. If the yeast doesn't react after 10 minutes, i.e. no bubbles, discard the contents and start all over again. Believe me, if the yeast doesn't rise then, it will never rise later.

Sugar- Now this is the one component you can really save on. If it calls for white sugar, go ahead. Buy that 10lb store brand sugar. It really doesn't matter as long as you used the right type of sugar called for in the recipe

Butter- Similar with sugar, it really doesn't make that much of a difference to use store brand butter instead of national brand. However, remember that the recipe calls for butter and not margarine. I know, some of you are watching calories and there are some who are on a diet restrictions. Whatever your reason is, if you can use butter, please use BUTTER! The trick is not to eat the whole loaf of bread by yourself. A slice or two is fine every now and then.

Water- Despite the claim that some people have with water from different region makes bread and pizza dough taste far more superior, I can't seems to quite agree with that. Water is water. Unless the water taste really awful where you live, I will say all water is fine. If you do have a problem with your local water supply, use filtered water instead.

Now that we have covered the 5 basic ingredients of bread making, try one recipe. Anyone recipe you can find out there. Give it a go. Your hard work and perseverance shall be rewarded.

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